Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
NEW YORK - A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers plunged the world into financial meltdown and jolted the foundations of capitalism, business students don't just want to learn how to maximise profit for shareholders and themselves.
Instead, many talk about sustainability, ethical leadership and managing companies for the benefit of all "stakeholders".
"It's fair to say that 15 or 20 years ago, the vast majority wanted to find lucrative careers," said Liz Maw, executive director of Net Impact, a non-profit organisation that promotes socially sustainable business practices.
"Now the great progress is that people see an MBA as a tool to learn how to be an effective manager of many organisations," she said, pointing to growing interest in the non-profit sector, government and entrepreneurship among MBA students.
Maw said the trend started about seven or eight years ago, coinciding with growing awareness of corporate social responsibility and the environment.
But it has accelerated during the financial crisis, which revealed how a short-term thirst for profits fueled risky business practices, she said.
Asked to name their role models, a group of MBA students at New York's Columbia University cited freedom hero Mahatma Gandhi and a chief executive known as an environmentalist and a financier-philanthropist, Warren Buffett.
"The financial crisis is going to be so deeply associated with our generation, it will put a sense of responsibility on all of us as future leaders," said Gary Schueller, who has just started a two-year MBA at Columbia Business School.
Schueller named Gandhi as his role model, and within the business world singled out Jeffrey Swartz, chief executive of environmentally conscious shoemaker Timberland.
Tim Eby, a 28-year-old engineer who worked for IBM before starting his MBA at Columbia, said scandals such as the Ponzi scheme run by disgraced financier Bernard Madoff had made him nervous about even naming a role model.
"I'm sure a few years ago somebody would have said Bernie Madoff is my guy."
Second-year MBA Olivia Albrecht, 26, echoed that caution, but made an exception for Warren Buffett.
Buffett is one of the world's richest men and regarded as its most generous philanthropist.
Bruce Kogut, director of the Sanford C Bernstein Center for Leadership and Ethics at Columbia, said the faculty had been debating how to learn the lessons of the crisis.
"Some of it is simply 'why did our models and what we teach fail?'" Kogut said.
This year's students will study the collapse of the auto industry in the US.
Students at Harvard Business School have now created an "MBA Oath".
They are encouraging their peers around the world to pledge to act ethically and "strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide". - Reuters